Local netball team ABL Chicos is this week celebrating its longstanding success and decades of milestones as it heads towards the team’s 17th final in the Wakatipu Premier league, to be held this Saturday (August 10th) at the Queenstown Event Centre at 5pm.
The team, co-sponsored by Amalgamated Builders Ltd (or ABL) and Chicos Bar and Grill, has been playing for more than 25 years.
Chicos ABL arguably legendary in this town, not only because so many of them have been playing together for so long, not only because they’ve won the much sought-after Premier Wakatipu Netball Championship Cup more than any other team in the league, but because all its members are involved as leaders in the netball community.
Last year, the entire team was awarded the “Contribution to Netball Cup” in 2012, an award traditionally only given to individuals.
Side-line coach and reserve Kay O’Connell, herself a recipient of the cup in 2010, said it was precisely for these reasons that the team was so successful.
“It’s hard to hold on to players in Queenstown because we’re such a transient town, so when you have a team like us that has had a core group for so many years who also coach and umpire, you get good results,” she said.
“We’re all very serious about the game and its development in the region, so that translates to the way we play on the court.
“As a team who know each other well, we can also identify when and where we need to improve our game and make the necessary changes together,” she said.
Indeed, many of the ABL Chico’s players have represented at regional and national level over the years, nowadays playing regularly in the South Island Masters Games, and they’re frequent fixtures courtside during netball season, whether to umpire, coach, manage, organise, or all of the above.
Mrs O’Connell, who has been with ABL Chicos for nine years, is President of the Wakatipu Netball Association organising the draw each week. She coaches Rep teams, the Remarkables Primary School team Yr 7A-8A, selects age group rep teams, organises sponsorship funding for the centre and co-ordinates umpires for the centre while also umpiring herself.
The team’s longest serving member is goal attack Tracee Harris, whose father Pat Burke set up the Queenstown ABL branch in the 1980s. Pat and Tracee arranged the team sponsorship when she started playing after high school in the 1990s.
Mrs Harris, who has left and rejoined the team, once to travel and once in a vain attempt at retiring, has been playing for more than 20 years. She also coaches Wakatipu High School Year 9B team.
Lisa Murphy, another player who has unsuccessfully tried to retire, is another long-serving member, racking up at least 20 seasons of game time in goal defence positions. She is president of the Wakatipu High School Netball Club, coaches the Wakatipu U17 Representative team, holds her New Zealand B umpires badge and coaches the Wakatipu High School Senior A team, the very team ABL Chicos will play in the final.
Sherrie Gwerder, ABL Chico’s goal shoot and one of the youngest players, jointly coaches the Wakatipu High School Snr A team with Lisa, and is also involved in coaching age group rep teams. Sherrie has been with ABL Chico’s for 6 years, only taking a break to travel overseas.
Mrs O’Connell said the high school team were strong contenders with a number of talented individuals.
“During this season we have won by 2, then drawn and in the last game played against the High School we won by just 2 points,” she said.
“They seem to be getting fitter each year while our bodies seem to hurt more! It should be a close final.”
Although ABL Chicos players are passing on to their opponents the knowledge and skills that have helped them succeed over many years, Mrs O’Connell said it was to the benefit of netball in general.
“It’s been great to see how the next generation of Wakatipu netballers are performing and benefitting from many years’ experience from their coaches,” she said.
“At some point we actually will retire and it’ll be great to see these girls keep going and maybe picking up where we’ve left off.”
Some ABL Chico’s players will even play against their daughters in this year’s final. Lisa Murphy’s daughter, Jordan and Corrine Dix’s daughter, Te Paia Dix both play for the senior A team and have played against their mums over the 2013 season.
Goal defender Mrs Dix has been playing for six years and coaches Wakatipu High School Yr 10A team, coaches at weekly Southland Netball Academy sessions in Queenstown and is also involved in coaching age group rep teams.
Wing defence Sharron Payne has 10 years playing and also coaches a Wakatipu High School Senior B team, as well as coaching/selecting age group rep teams, and umpiring.
Goal attack Tracy Galbraith has been with the team for 11 years. She coaches Arrowtown Primary School’s Yr 6 team and coaches/selects age group rep teams.
Sue Albrecht has six years playing mainly as goal keeper. She also coaches two Remarkables Primary School teams and co-ordinates and coaches age group rep teams for the centre.
Anna Williams is the youngest player with five years playing and is a fitness trainer for Millbrook Resort. She plays wing attack and centre.
Last but certainly not least, centre Sasha McLeod has 10 years playing, is secretary for the Wakatipu Netball Association, co-ordinates the draw each week, organises the umpires for the centre, umpires at New Zealand B grade and travels each week to umpire at the Southern league for Southland.
Together with Mrs O’Connell they arrange the draw so players with coaching commitments can both coach and play.
ABL Queenstown director Karsten Pedersen said the company was “hugely proud” to support a team that in turn gave their all to a thriving netball community in the basin.
“Not only that, but they’re actively leading the next generation of netball players towards the fullest extent of their abilities, at a time when netball is a hugely growing spectator sport in New Zealand.”
“We should all get out there and support them in the finals game. They’re legends.”
The finals of the Wakatipu Premier league will be held on Saturday August 10th at the Queenstown Event Centre at 5pm.